Almost anyone can tell you that good “content” is what drives traffic on the web these days. As consumer brands get in on the action, new (subtly branded) “content-driven” blogs and websites are popping up like weeds. At the same time, there seems to be very little understanding of the work required to generate solid content – that thing we called “editorial” in the olden days.
I frequently consult with web design firms on projects where the client is launching a major content-driven venture. And, more often than not, those clients haven’t put much thought into just how the lifeblood of their site – the content – will be generated. Below I outline a few of the key considerations any brand or company should take under advisement before committing to launching a content-based website.
As even Chris Anderson acknowledges in his new book FREE, you’re going to have to pay someone to acquire content. One model is to have a managing editor as your point person and your only paid employee. The idea here is that you pay them to nag a squadron of volunteer (read: unpaid) writers to turn in articles or posts.
However, I find this is less effective than just paying all contributors a satisfactory per-piece sum. It doesn’t have to be huge, but it means you’ll get higher quality work and spend less time paying your editor to breathe life into mediocre contributions.
It’s wise to set some expectation of frequency for the visitors coming to your site. Are you posting ten times a day? Five times a day? Three times a week? If you want visitors to return, consistency is incredibly important. Determining your publishing frequency depends, of course, on what you’re trying to accomplish and your editorial resources. Assuming that you will be paying contributors per piece, you’ll need to weigh frequency against your available budget.
Unless you yourself are a talented all-in-one editor and writer, you’re going to need some kind of staff to create the content for your site. Once you’ve determined your publishing frequency, you should be able to estimate how many contributors you might need. Keep in mind it’s always best to have too many rather than too few writers. Your contributors will fail to meet deadlines from time to time, and it’s good to have backup when you’re in a pinch.
Most sites will require some sort of editorial calendar, which maps out what the week’s (or month’s) features are, who they are assigned to, when they are due, and so forth. This ensures that you’ll meet your frequency goals, and that your team knows what’s going on. Some blogs are narrowly focused enough that they don’t need a calendar, and the editor will instead assign writers a certain amount of pieces (usually related to that writer’s “beat”) to turn in within a given time frame.
Workflow accounts for the nitty-gritty of how the content gets from the writer to live site. If you’re using a team of freelance writers, they’re unlikely to want to log into a back-end content system, be it WordPress or anything else. (And even if they do, they’ll probably make errors when they input the content.) You’re better off having all content be handed off to a managing editor who knows the ins and outs of your website’s publishing system. Before posting, the editor can then proofread the piece, as well as ensuring that it has appropriate imagery, links, etc.